Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 7/8/12
With all of the on- and off-the-field disciplinary issues facing the Detroit Lions these days, its no wonder that some need to clean up their image publicly. Ndamukong Suh has made appearances during the offseason with that in mind. On Saturday, it was Nick Fairleys turn. Fairley, a 24-year-old defensive tackle with tremendous potential, hosted his first kickball tournament for kids at a soccer field in Dearborn Heights, Mich. This was the same Fairley who in recent months had been arrested twice in his hometown of Mobile, Ala., first for possession of marijuana and then for driving under the influence of alcohol while being clocked at 100 mph. Those were two of the Lions six arrests since late January, more than any other team in the NFL during that time. Now its time to try torepair those tarnishedreputations. Ive got a lot of nieces and nephews I like to play with, Fairley told reporters at the event attended by some 50 children. Kickball is our thing. Thats what we do when were at home when weve got family cookouts and things like that. We get together to have fun. I just love kids. Fairley, who is 6-foot-4, 298 pounds, is a big kid at heart. You can see it in his mannerisms on the practice field. On his first day back following his second arrest, Fairley was running around with his arms out to both sides, pretending to be an airplane. When reporters asked him at the kickball tournament about why he could be trusted with influencing kids considering his recent run-ins with the law, Fairley replied, Because Im a great guy. Simple as that. His teammates and coaches certainly dont condone the trouble hes gotten into, but they do defend his character. Hes been hustling, coach Jim Schwartz said during the Lions workouts last month. Hes been working very hard. His haven, so to speak, has been the weight room and the field and the meeting rooms. Hes done a good job in all those areas. Schwartz added, Hes got a great personality. Despite his troubles, Fairley clearly isnt considered a negative influence in the Lions locker room. That, along with his talent at a position where its not easy to find high-end players, is why the Lions will continue to work with Fairley and try to help him get things turned around. Fairley, who has pleaded not guilty to the DUI charge, still faces a likely suspension from the NFL once the legal matters have been settled. His teammate, running back Mikel Leshoure, received a two-game suspension for his two marijuana arrests. A similar penalty is likely awaiting Fairley. While he doesnt want to turn his back on long-time friends back home, Fairley knows he needs to be selective in who he hangs around while also making better decisions. Since his second arrest, Fairley has taken some needed steps in trying to address the problems. A couple weeks ago, he attended a rookie symposium in which players are educated on the ups and downs of being a professional athlete by players, coaches and other experts. There was no symposium last year, when Fairley was a rookie after being selected No. 13 overall, because of the NFL lockout. I learned a lot, Fairley, who some think could be headed for abreakout season in 2012,told reporters Saturday. That was one of the things I wanted to do coming into the NFL listen to players that have been here and been through different situations. Among the speakers that Fairley heard were Cincinnati defensive back Adam Pac-Man Jones, who has resurrected his career following a one-year suspension and multiple off-the-field issues. Jones, obviously, was in a lot deeper trouble than Fairley, and he turned things around. Fairley should be able to do the same. It was good for him to attend the symposium and hear some of the stories that Jones and others told. It was also good for him to step out in public and be seen in a different light at the kickball tournament. They are small steps, but much-needed steps for a player who has way too much talent to waste.
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